He looked down at his hands, lying in his lap. They were relaxed, the palms facing up, the fingers curled over. The voice of the introductory speaker came over the sound-system, telling the audience a little about their guest speaker for the evening; soon he would be on stage to give his speech. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and stared hard at his hands.
He hated his hands; actually, he hated his whole body, but his hands seemed to be the epitome of all that was wrong with his broken body. He willed his fingers to open out, like a normal person’s hands would, but nothing, no movement at all; his illness had left him too weak, too paralysed. His hands lay soft and relaxed on his legs, as they always did. He had sufficient muscular strength to move his arms or legs in a limited way, but not his hands, nor could he walk anymore. The degenerative muscle disease had robbed him of most of his mobility. He glanced at his legs, making sure they were positioned properly, normally.
The sound of applause roused his attention, and he smiled at his assistant, as she came to wheel his chair onto the stage and position him in front of the microphone. For a moment, an image of what he must look like to the audience went through his mind – a wheelchair, and a short-ish man sitting slightly slumped in it, a neat suit, tidy hair, hands laid quietly in his lap. He hoped he didn’t look too much like a caricature of a human, that he looked as normal as possible. He hoped too, that the audience would see beyond the wheelchair, would see ‘him’, the man that sat in it; so often people did not even see a person in a wheelchair, or even worse, treated them like they were mentally handicapped as well as physically.
He took another deep breath, and smiled slightly at the crowded auditorium. He started to speak, and his voice, well-modulated and controlled, filled the room over the sound-system. He had a good voice, and his motivational talks were very popular. As he spoke, he was able to forget just how he must look, in his handicapped body.
She sat in a chair near the front of the auditorium, legs crossed at the knees, swinging one foot in an elegant high heeled shoe. Her arms were loosely folded over her body, and she was not hiding the fact that she was bored. The introductory speaker was taking too long; she had only come as a favour to a friend, who felt that listening to a motivational, inspirational story would be good for both of them.
She glanced up as the wheel-chair was pushed across to the microphone, and then slowly sat up a little straighter. The man sitting in the chair was not at all what she was expecting; she didn’t really know what she was expecting, but certainly not a handsome, blond man, well groomed, in elegant clothes. He sat very still as he began to speak, his compelling voice filling the room as he spoke about his experiences and how the human spirit can always triumph over hardship, with self-belief and faith in God. He spoke with passion, but his body stayed still, no gestures other than the expressions on his face.
‘He’s beautiful’, she thought, ‘what an interesting man!’ His intense blue eyes captivated her, and his very stillness intrigued her. She looked more closely at him, noting the useless hands and legs, but the power of his personality was absorbing, charismatic. His confidence, despite his handicap, and strength of character were expressed in the way he spoke; he was clearly a survivor, and she could whole-heartedly respect that – she was too. As she listened to him speak, she felt a bond with him in all that he had suffered, and continued to suffer, and felt drawn to him. She turned to her friend, and said, too loudly, in her broken English, “he is special!”
The slight disturbance in the audience in front of him caught his attention. As an accomplished speaker, he didn’t hesitate for a moment, but he noticed the exotic woman sitting in front of him.
The force of his blue eyes looking at her for that brief moment seemed to touch something in her heart. Then and there, she determined to meet him.
Three months later, they were married.